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October 17, 2013

Silver Linings on the DemoCare Debacle

Great News for Conservatives — If…

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” –Benjamin Franklin (1776)

Despite the political miscalculation derailing the conservative House Continuing Resolution strategy three weeks ago, which predictably led to a partial government shutdown furloughing 17% of “non-essential” federal employees two weeks ago, which predictably collapsed approval ratings for anyone with an “R” after their name in the last week, which predictably resulted in Republican submission to Barack Obama’s agenda this week, there are three silver linings on the horizon that will pay rich political dividends.

Each of these favorable opportunities will greatly benefit the campaigns of conservative Republicans for a generation if, and only if, there is a cease-fire in the foolish and fatalistic “Tea v. GOP infighting,” which undermined the outstanding CR strategy House conservative were advancing on schedule four weeks ago.

I’ll get to those opportunities in a moment, but first, let me recap where we were just four short weeks ago:

In mid-September, Republicans had Barack Obama and his Leftist NeoCom cadres on the ropes, getting pounded and losing ground fast. Obama was plagued with the IRS, Benghazi and Syrian scandals, among a growing list of other failures, which were thoroughly undermining his second term agenda.

Making matters worse for The Party of Obama, the inevitable launch of ObamaCare (the so-called “Affordable Care Act”) on October 1, a day after the deadline for the CR, was, by all accounts, going to be a cascading disaster – not just from a technical standpoint but also from a political standpoint in the months and years to come.

Ahead of the CR deadline in September, the conservative House Republican strategy was to attach amendments to the Continuing Resolution which would 1) force Demo senators to go on record with a vote against defunding ObamaCare; 2) then force Demo senators to go on record with a vote against delaying ObamaCare; and, finally 3) force a vote on a CR with an amendment to require all members of the legislative and executive branch to comport with ObamaCare regulations and requirements.

The third amended CR, which by all accounts had enormous popular national appeal across political lines, would have passed the Senate and received Obama’s begrudging signature. The first two “defund” and “delay” amendment votes would be lead anchors on many 2014 Demo campaigns.

Then, against a backdrop featuring wall-to-wall coverage of the ObamaCare launch disaster (technical failures, lack of enrollees, sticker shock for the few who successfully navigated the site, new questions about privacy, etc.), Republicans would be in a strong position to enter the debt ceiling debate with a wish list of other amendments, including tax reform, approval of the Keystone pipeline, regulatory and entitlement reforms including means-tested Medicare, a “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI) and other conservative budget measures.

(For the record, this is not “hindsight 20/20” analysis, but precisely the winning strategy conservative House Republicans were advancing in early September – which now seems like a political lifetime ago.) And as I have written before about ObamaCare, “when your adversary is self destructing, don’t interfere!”

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So, how did conservatives convert a win to a loss?

Unfortunately, a tactical miscalculation by Sen. Ted Cruz, however well-intended, derailed the conservative House CR and DC strategy, leaving House and Senate Republicans on defense with no way out and no ability to recover. He was right to stand up for the House bills, but he did not know when to stand down. Undoubtedly Cruz is smart – he is a graduate of Princeton and magna cum laude from Harvard Law – but he just completed his first course in political strategy, and failed. In fact, he never articulated any winning endgame strategy, because there was not one.

There is much to like about Ted Cruz, and my objection is not over his motives, but his tactics. Even the president of his most well-funded grassroots promoter, Heritage Action, now concedes, “Everybody understands that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017, and that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.” Of course, even the most novice of political observers could have predicted that Cruz’s tactics would give Democrats an opening for a partial shutdown, which they would hang around Republican necks. And indeed they did.

Of course, Ted gained a lot of followers who will be chastising me for daring to break ranks with his tactics. However, many veteran conservative political analysts have similarly criticized the self-destructive tactics and infighting Cruz led against those in his own party. Jonah Goldberg, in his summary of this latest debacle, notes that this has been less about competing ideology and more about frustration forcing tactical errors: “In the recent internecine conservative donnybrook over the government shutdown, the insurgents insisted they were in an ideological struggle with the establishment. But there was precious little ideology involved. Instead, it was a fight over tactics and power. The Republican Party almost unanimously opposed Obamacare, and the Republicans who’ve been in office far longer than Cruz & Co. have voted more than three dozen times to get rid of the disastrous program. And yet, the latecomers to the battle talk as if the veterans in the trenches were collaborators the whole time.”

Finding themselves in a “box canyon,” the “establishment” Republican Senate and House leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, acquiesced to Demo demands, passing a status quo CR and Debt Ceiling agreement, ending the paid furlough and allowing the federal government to continue borrowing money to pay debt service on money it already borrowed – basically a Ponzi scheme – as we soar through the $17 trillion national debt mark. It punted any CR debate to January 15 and debt ceiling debate to February 7. (Oh, and members of Congress and their staffs will still receive their taxpayer-funded subsidies for health benefits.)

Regarding the Senate vote Cruz said “I have no objections to the timing of this vote, and the reason is simple. There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days, the outcome will be same.” In a tragic case of irony, that is precisely the position he should’ve taken four weeks ago, instead of delaying the Senate vote, which put Democrats in a position to force a partial government shutdown and blame it on Republicans.

Obama, who has singlehandedly increased the nation’s debt by 55%, could hardly contain his glee when signing the “deal.”

For the record, I have never witnessed such a dramatic reversal of political fortunes in the span of one month. The ability of a few Republicans to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” be they of the “establishment” or “conservative” ranks, is astounding.

Disagree if you will, but the consequences are clear. For example, in July, Republicans had a 12-point lead with independents. Now Demos lead by nine – a dramatic shift in a political group that typically determines national election outcomes. And the GOP’s overall favorability rating has dropped by 10 points to 28%. In the words of John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

(Oh and while all eyes were on Washington Wednesday, in the New Jersey Senate race to fill the seat of the late Frank Lautenberg, Democrat Cory Booker trounced an outstanding Tea Party conservative, Steve Lonegan.)

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So, what are the positive outcomes of this debacle, opportunities which have the potential to grow the ranks of conservative Republicans in the House and Senate in 2014 and beyond – if, as I wrote, moderate and conservative Republicans will lock arms and take the fight to our Leftist adversaries rather than each other?

First, this is the BIG one.

Obama, the consummate narcissist, having even embraced the name “ObamaCare,” will himself, along with every member of the House and Senate with a “D” after their name, suffer a significant reversal of political fortune after ObamaCare is implemented. And this will continue as long as ObamaCare exists.


Yes, the rollout has been a disaster and the “sticker shock” will be evident, but those failings are just a mere shadow metaphor for the much bigger disaster to come. The real DemoCare liability is this: From October 1 forward, with increasing frequency, Americans of every political stripe who have any issue with health care, whether a hangnail or heart transplant, a delay in a doctor’s office or in critical care for a loved one, will tie blame for their discontent like a noose around the necks of Obama and his Democrats, who were solely responsible for forcing this abomination upon the American people. (And that was the basis for the derailed Republican strategy to force Democrat House and Senate votes on the “defund” and “delay” measures!)

Dealing with government clerical minions in this new bloated bureaucracy will be no different than dealing with any other huge government bureaucracy – endless and infuriating. No matter how Fab-Tastic ObamaCare may be for some Demo constituencies, Democrats are going to be the target of every health care complaint – and that includes Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, Lanhee Chen, Hoover Institute Fellow and Stamford Professor of Public Policy, argues that Republicans need to get out of the way and let ObamaCare become a political liability for the Left. Chen notes, “Let’s fight ObamaCare by getting out of the way. … Republicans can still use Obamacare’s failings to their advantage, but it will require a disciplined, realistic approach. And it means recognizing the impossibility of large-scale changes to the law while Barack Obama is president.”

Of course, there will be other pitfalls – like the centralization of health and tax records within massive data hubs, many of which will inevitably be compromised and used for fraudulent purposes. Just wait until medical and tax records are accessible to 20,000 additional government clerks in the O'care bureaucracy.

Within the “Terms and Conditions” source code of the ObamaCare web site, at least when it’s working, is this disclaimer: “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system. At any time, and for any lawful Government purpose, the government may monitor, intercept, and search and seize any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system. Any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system may be disclosed or used for any lawful Government purpose.”

And state exchanges have equally troubling “privacy policies,” like Maryland’s, which notes that it will “share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities.” And now there are warnings about impostor O'care sites collecting private information – for resale or identity theft. It’s all downhill from here!

“What is going to happen,” Barack Obama recently crowed, “is when it’s working and everybody is really happy with it, Republicans are going to stop calling it ‘ObamaCare.’”

That’s wishful thinking. Beginning this week, Obama’s dream of socialized medicine will become an ever more terrifying nightmare. Actually, as the ObamaCare promises and propaganda fade to black, as I have previously suggested, we should refer to this behemoth as “DemoCare.”

If Republicans successfully herd the inevitable health care consumer dissatisfaction and anger in the direction of Democrats, the electoral rewards will be substantial in 2014, 2016 and beyond. Of course, given the Republican performance in the last month, that’s a big “if.”

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Second, the consequences of the “Republican Sequester,” as Obama dishonestly frames it, and the current partial government shutdown, have had far less impact than trumped up by the Democrats, despite their “make ‘em suffer” strategy of shutting down high-profile operations such as national parks. The consequence is that a lot of Americans have now learned firsthand that the nation doesn’t fall apart when more than 1/6th of “non-essential” government clerks and bureaucrats are not on the job. (Who would’ve guessed!)

Today, most Americans know someone who is a federal government employee (not including uniformed military personnel or postal workers). That fact, in and of itself, should be alarming.

There are tens of thousands of good civilians working in government, but millions more are now the “walking dead,” many of whom came into their job with a good work ethic but lost it to oppressive bureaucratic erosion. On the other hand, many enter government service because they know that little is required. The result is a costly, bloated and spirit-sapping bureaucracy rife with waste and poorly utilized personnel.

This gross bureaucratic inflation was made plain in a recent GAO report, “Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication,” and echoed in countless analytical reports such as the Wall Street Journal’s “Billions in Beltway Bloat.” Last week, Time magazine featured an analytical piece titled “Most of Government is 'Non-Essential’.”

Of course, eliminating “non-essential” government jobs is next to impossible because those who hold them are shielded from discipline or termination by their public sector unions.

Early in Ronald Reagan’s second term, I met with one of his agency heads – a final interview for a job I thought I really wanted.

That meeting went well, but I was offered some advice regarding government employment before being offered the post. Having reviewed my thick application file (yes, this was back when a file contained actual paper), and having paid particular attention to an extensive personality profile, this career military officer and senior Reagan appointee looked me in the eye and said: “If you come up here and take this post, you won’t make it six weeks before you kill somebody.”

After some elaboration, I declined the post.

In the years since, I have known many very bright and capable government employees, particularly in agencies with law enforcement or intelligence functions. I have to tip my hat to them because they have a much higher threshold for dealing with non-essential bureaucrats who are indifferent, incompetent, unmotivated, overpaid and underworked – and who outnumber them 10-to-1! Indeed, a universal truth pertaining to bureaucracies is this: As size increases, accountability decreases.

So, this question is now embedded in the minds of voters across the nation: Is it possible that only half the current government “workers” could accomplish everything that the full contingent accomplish now, under the right management? Or, metaphysically speaking: If a government shuts down and no one notices, did it really need to be so big?

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And the third silver lining?

There is the opportunity to gain some discernment about political process, and to understand that building up toward common goals, rather than tearing down over disagreements, is the only way to continue adding conservatives at every level of government. Democrats have held the House for the better part of the last seven decades, and the Senate for many of those years. It will take more than a few election cycles for the modern Tea Party movement to restore the integrity of our Constitution.

Indeed, there is clear evidence of a conservative shift in public opinion as noted in a recent Washington Post guest editorial by Cornell political scientist Peter Enns. This shift is nationwide – but keeping that momentum going will require some serious soul searching, and coalitions based on common objectives.

Finally, did I mention that the returns on these silver linings will be significantly diminished unless there is a cease-fire in the foolish and fatalistic “Tea v. GOP infighting”? Yes, I think I did.

As always fellow Patriots, keep your eyes set upon the ultimate prize, Liberty! In the words of John Hancock at the dawn of our Republic, “We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must hang together.”

Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis

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